If there’s one whisky producer known for appearing in a considerable chunk of sourced bottlings, it’s Ross & Squibb (MGP). If there’s one whisky producer known for appearing in a considerable chunk of sourced bottlings that people would rather avoid, it’s George Dickel. All the same, some individuals have become fatigued at the ever-increasing number of brands sourcing Ross & Squibb, especially when said whisky is relatively young but carries elevated price tags. But I digress.
George Dickel is ubiquitous to the point that anytime a bottle mentions being distilled in Tennessee, it’s presumed to be Dickel distillate. Yet Dickel’s stocks often appear older from brand to brand than that of their Indiana peer. I think the reason for this is twofold: Dickel tend to live in the shadow of the even more ubiquitous (but in a different way) Jack Daniel’s and public opinion on Dickel is notoriously split. Some insist that Dickel smells and tastes a certain way, with multivitamin being oft-cited. It also tends to be described in an unflattering light. Then there are those who have either looked past that characteristic or simply don’t get it at all.
Regardless, Dickel remains a distinct and integral producer of whisky, with the somewhat recently introduced Bottled in Bond drawing its own bit of attention. The original 2019 release was described by many as a traditional Dickel profile, but a fantastic value for the right crowd with a 13-year age statement and sub-$40 price tag. 2020’s release saw a reduction in age to 11 years with a slight increase to the price tag ($40 or so), along with claims from certain individuals about the flavor profile. This was my first go with an in-house Cascade Hollow bottling, so let’s dig in.
Nose: Like an Almond Joy, but with way more almonds than anything else. Possesses ubiquitous minerality, but it’s tame and manifests more like muted cherry and grape Sweetarts with a side of chocolate. Fresh anise sneaks up too.
Palate: Chocolate Payday upfront followed by an oddly bright and woody character with delicate oak spice. Becomes more like crunchy peanut butter with dry vanilla on subsequent sips.
Finish: Lingering wood with chocolate, nougat, and hints of the Sweetarts. Coconut from the nose comes into its own. Lightly drying and woody heat on the throat (hug), but flavor-wise it’s fairly clean on the palate.
My first pours of Dickel Bottled in Bond left me fairly apathetic. This opinion hasn’t drastically shifted over time, but I’ve gained the benefit of perspective that I seldom delve into. I also recently tried a 15-year bottling at a local bar, which gave me an even clearer lens to view from. 2020’s Bottled in Bond reminds me a bit of Jim Beam, but with an added layer of chocolate and, depending on the Beam expression in question, a less impactful finish. The extra age does go a long way, with 11 years being quite impressive, even more so when we consider how age statements have decreased or disappeared entirely. Combine that with a decent proof point from an established distillery and one can become swooned by Dickel Bottled in Bond without even sipping. Yet that removes the most important part of the equation: just how enjoyable is the whisky?
I’d describe this Dickel Bottled in Bond as something I’d take if offered, but would almost never request by name. The good qualities feel rather stilted, as if there’s a stronger, livelier pour inside being held back. However, I’m also partially comparing it to the 15-year when I should be evaluating it on its own merits. What’s particularly curious about Dickel Bottled in Bond is that it reminds me of a host of candies while never coming across as particularly sweet. The best comparison I can make in that sense is club soda meant to taste like something sweet, but only contains the flavoring without any actual sweetener. It’s that type of sensation. Ultimately, I can’t imagine this converting non-Dickel drinkers, especially if 2020’s bonded offering is considered less representative of other Dickel bottlings. But what I can say is that this bottle became easier to appreciate over time, almost to the point that I could call myself a fan. Almost.